austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

You can knit a sweater by the fireside

Thursday we had no plans for rehabilitation or any other obligations, and I didn't figure on answering the phone no matter how frantic they were back at work. We had better plans for what to do instead.

The first piece of this was going to the Saginaw Zoo. Although we had been to Saginaw before, to the Kokomos Family Fun Center, we hadn't gone to the zoo. I didn't know there was one, actually, and bunny_hugger just had memories of the zoo from years ago when it was poorly run and un-accredited. The Zoo has since straightened itself, and gotten Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation, and gotten a rather positive reputation locally. And, better, bunny_hugger discovered, it's gotten a pair of coatis, as well as a new carousel. We couldn't resist going.

Happily bunny_hugger's satellite navigator knew the way, since we wouldn't have had a big chance of finding it on our own. It wasn't too convoluted a path, I think, but it did take us off the big highways into a mesh of smaller roads, and past wide-open fields, all of which were flooded. It had been a rainy week everywhere except where we happened to be, and either the Saginaw area is normally two millimeters above the water table or it was just excessively rainy. We started describing some fields as ``access rivers'', for running parallel to actual rivers and not being appreciably less watery.

The Zoo was excellent. Right up front besides a pair of macaws --- who startled bunny_hugger by not being statues --- was also a peacock who not only strode around confidently but also flared his tail reasonably often. Either he likes showing off for the cameras or he was trying to woo the miniature train, which whistled just often enough that I thought he might be making an understandable mistake.

The carousel was our first attraction there. It was carved by locals, so what it may lack in the finer details of carousel-crafting it made up for in folk charm. For example, the ticket booth has at the bases a pair of raccoons standing upright, one holding a corncob resting from one arm to the other, the other holding a fish in the same pattern, rather like soldiers holding their rifles in a parade maneuver. Another pair --- not in the same rank --- was of rabbits. One, in front, was female, with on her back a small basket containing a quartet of baby rabbits. The male, several animals back, had baskets full of carrots on his side, satisfying certain gender-normative assumptions but making a lovely pair. The panels explaining the animals include a mention that the male rabbit has a tear in his eye for never being able to catch the female, which is a charming touch also neither of us was sure we saw the tear.

There were several extra heads around the carousel gazebo, and we asked the attendant about that. He was happy to talk about the ride --- which had been recently renovated, so was in better shape than average --- but the extra heads were apparently just pieces they had as decoration rather than, say, work done on animals that ultimately weren't part of the ride. Somehow that felt more confusing at the time.

The Zoo, as mentioned, was fairly recently renovated and brought up to modern standards and as a result it looks great. They had a fine pond area for the North American River Otter and one did his best to put on a show against the plexiglass wall beside the deep part of the pond and once again I was frustrated in not bringing my polarized lens to deal with such reflections. We were slightly disappointed that the walking-through portion of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo exhibit was closed, but they're renovating the Australian Stuff part of the zoo so this was understandable. The kangaroos eventually hopped over toward the platform so we could get some pictures of them eating dandelions as well.

There was some disappointment: the Flemish giant and the lionhead rabbits were off display. There were smaller domestic rabbits, at least, for that.

And the coatis, yes. They had a pair, behind plexiglass, in the largest coati enclosure I've seen except for the open-air one in Binghamton's zoo. The two were in the tree house when we first approached, but one soon came out and snuffled into a large plastic tub containing food. And then she began to trot around the enclosure and begin digging.

See, one of the prominent features of coatis is a tendency to dig for food, using the nose as a shovel and rooting around inside. This one was doing just that, poking up a line of surprising length and uniformity, digging a nice long series of mounds in the soft soil. We wondered whether the zookeepers were burying stuff in the dirt to be dug up, or if she was just digging because, hey, there's dirt, what else are you going to do?

bunny_hugger also asked one of those questions that I just don't know the answer to, and that maybe hasn't got an answer known to human science: given the sensitivity and utility of the coati nose, how do they go digging without it getting stuffed full of dirt? I just don't know. Maybe it's something in the rooting about.

The other coati emerged from the treehouse in time, for some digging and some mutual grooming and I don't think teeth were bared to any excessive amount. One was substantially larger than the other, but if there were any panels explaining how old they were or where they came from we missed it. We did overhear a comfortable number of passers-by trying to speculate on just what these strange creatures were or where they came from, though no engagingly wrong guesses about them stood out.

After the Zoo, we aimed to get to the Kokomos Fun Center where bunny_hugger would ride her first roller coaster since being given the OK by her physical therapist. But while driving there bunny_hugger got frustrated with one of the car's headlights having burnt out, and she really didn't want to drive home with only the one light. So we stopped in a Meijer's by the fun center so she could buy a new light. This would be convenient for me too since I'd gotten a Diet Dr Pepper and while we were driving there it decided to spontaneously foam up and spill over, soaking part of my sweatpants as well as my right sneaker.

bunny_hugger likes my new sneakers, an honestly cheap canvas pair in grey that I got at Target. And she worried that the soda was going to leave them, or at least the shoelaces, pink-stained. So I'd be able to at least try washing the laces out. This met with indifferent results although the worst of the stain did wear off soon thereafter. Mostly it's notable that I passed a Lottery scratch-off vending machine and noticed the classic Atari logo, so put some money into a card based on Asteroids and other ancient video games. Well, I like scratch-off cards and the licensed tie-in was cute.

We'd been to the Fun Center before; they have a small roller coaster called The Serpent which is quite some fun, particularly since it's pretty simple in design --- two main drops, and a pair of helixes. It only takes two cars at a time but it's a really fun ride. We made this the first order of business, with the plan to play some games (bunny_hugger also played Dance Dance Revolution) and miniature golf before finishing off with the roller coaster again.

This is the place with that fiendishly hard miniature golf course. One of the holes actually requires you to shoot into the water, which will carry the ball to the final green. Another has several hidden-passage holes blocked off and no longer going anywhere. And one truly horrible one is made of three greens. The objective of the first is to shoot into a tiny passage which rolls down to what was, based on the filled-in holes, formerly the holes. The second tier you again have to shoot into a small opening in the rocks lining the green, which takes a slender path down to the third tier. From the alignment of the tunnels from hole to hole it's not even theoretically possible to get a hole-in-one; I think the hole was officially listed with the still-absurd par of 4. Last year [Bad username: bunny_hugger"] and I needed about twelve shots each to get in. We were expecting a bloodbath.

And then ... my first shot went directly into the tunnel from first tier to the next. In Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, people playing the miniature golf course who hit a hole in one do a happy little dance; I was doing that. But I knew it'd never come again.

On my next shot I tried to get at least closer to the passage, and my ball did hit one rock on the side, start to roll away, and then ... it slipped down the track to the third tier. It didn't drop into the hole, but it was just a couple-inch putt to make that and in violation of the Gods of Irony I made that without any trouble either. I came away with a three on the most impossible miniature golf hole ever.

Despite this astounding moment bunny_hugger won the course, I think by one stroke, so I suggested we go in and I buy her ice cream. This was an excellent theory; we'd looked over the ice cream flavors earlier while getting pizza (which was better than we anticipated, too), but by the time we got in the snack counter was closed up. This seemed quite a few hours earlier than it should have closed.

Well, we could ride the roller coaster again at least. And we went to the coaster where there wasn't anyone. Perhaps they were on break. We waited. Nobody came around. We went inside and learned that this late in the day (it was just a little past 8:00) the go-kart attendants handled the roller coaster and if we talked to them we'd get a ride when they were next free. So we went to the go-karts, which were doing land-office business. All the people left at Kokomos were there for the go-karting. We got the ear of the attendant between rides and he said, sure, he'd give us a ride as soon as this next batch of go-kart riders were done.

So we sat by the go-kart rides and told each other we had arranged reservations to ride the roller coaster, and how many people got that kind of service?

The go-kart boom wore off after that next round, though, so they'd have been able to give us a ride on The Serpent even if we hadn't brought attention to ourselves. But we had the ride to ourselves, and took the back car (which gets a sharper movement in the drops), and had the delight of watching over the ride in the waning hours of the day as the lights of everything came on.

Also, apparently, Kokomos closes earlier in May than it does in the summer proper; our ride might have been the last thing going on besides the video games indoors. This would explain the snack counter problems. So we set out for home, content that we had enjoyed a really good day.

Trivia: The German delegates invited to the second International Commission of Weights and Measures, designed to address the problems of making the metric system more universally useful and accepted, stayed home. The commission held its first meeting in Paris on 8 August 1870, a couple of weeks into the Franco-Prussian War. Source: The Measure Of All Things: The Seven-Year-Odyssey That Transformed The World, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport, Kenny Mayne.

[ PS: Was it just me not being too observant or was the Internet dead this weekend? I almost had to pay attention to my Friends list, for crying out loud, instead of just seeing that it kept on scrolling away. ]

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